Travel curators

Your true professional calling is the one thing that drives you with passion. Vacation designers Manjari Verma and Avani Patel talk to Prachi Rege about their quirky venture.

Your true professional calling is the one thing that drives you with passion. Vacation designers Manjari Verma and Avani Patel talk to Prachi Rege about their quirky venture.

"If you want to leave your job and do something you think you are good at, then figure out your financials before taking the leap," advise business partners Manjari Verma and Avani Patel who own Broken Compass—a travel company with a twist. They sell customise holiday packages tailored to suit the traveller`s personality, food and shopping tastes and most importantly fit in their budget. One can customise any kind of vacation they want—right from an exploration trip to the rainforests of Amazon to a luxury vacation in Istanbul.

While Verma, is a former advertising professional who has also dabbled in bit of journalism, Patel used to be employed as a Marine biologist. However, both lost interest in their respective careers and confess to have found their true calling in travel.

"I wasn`t happy with the pay as a field biologist," says Patel, who moved to Mumbai post her marriage in 2006 and had the idea of setting up a travel company. It was during this time that the duo met through a common friend, at a point when even Verma was in an exit mode from her profession. "Journalism is being a detached writer and I couldn`t be one. I stopped enjoying advertising within three years into the job," explains Verma, who was initially consulted by Patel to suggest a name for her company.

However, the two self-confessed travel enthusiasts and adventurers then decided to make it a business partnership and launched Broken compass in June 2010. Based on the experiences of people who have been disappointed with their vacation, they decided on the idea of offering customised holiday services. "I once met an acquaintance who was hassled after her vacation in Bangkok and Phuket. The reason? She chose to travel during the Monsoon season," explains Verma, about how people are clueless about where and when to travel.

With over 80 to 85 customised trips designed by them every year, the duo is on the mission of developing travellers who explore and enjoy rather than just visit a place. It is for this reason that unlike other travel companies, they don`t have tie ups with five star hotels but with villa owners in Greece, a Balinese healer in Bali and a Bunjee jumping company in New Zealand. While Patel is a
master of the domestic travel market, Verma extensively handles their international collaborations.

Solo travellers who don`t mind travelling with other travel connosieurs, can opt for the 3 to 4 group trips that are organised every year.

A commission fee of anywhere between 10 to 20% is charged on the overall package. It depends on the kind of research that has been put into planning your trip. "We decided to quit our jobs because we come from strong financial backgrounds. So money was not an issue," informs the duo. According to them, people tend to be impulsive and jump into something they think is their passion.

"A clear thought process is important if you want to switch your career. You might be a good dancer or baker, but try to see yourself doing it over a long period of time," insists Verma. Patel warns that one must be mentally prepared to face challenges and also the fact that you might not be earning money initially.

Even though their venture has got a positive response, the travel designers had to get through to the traditional mindset of a typical Indian tourist. "The primary challenge was earning a client`s trust. We got compared to other travel companies and portals," points out the duo, who had a hard time convincing the client why their charges were a little more than that of the others.

Since they customise an entire trip, a lot of research goes into finding things that are suitable to the client`s needs. At the end of the booking the client is given a five page docket filled with information on things to explore at their chosen holiday destination.

Starting next year, the duo plan to expand travel horizons of their clients with thematic trips to domestic and international destinations, adventure specials, food trails and day trips to the closest location around town. "Though we are self-employed, we work hard and sometimes have to work at odd hours of the day. But we don`t regret this one bit," signs off Patel.